Water softener buying guide (What to look for before buying)

For you to buy the right water softener for your home, there are some tips you need to consider. In this article, you will find a water softener buying guide.

Water softener buying guide

Even if hard water is not harmful and does not affect health matters, it causes many problems such as dry skin and hair, complicated soap, stains, and clogging of home appliances.

Therefore, it is important to treat hard water by installing a water softener or conditioner so as to reduce the negative impact it causes on our home appliances and bodies.

Well, there is one problem: finding the right water softener for your home is a daunting task. That’s why we have created an article for the water softener buying guide and tips to consider.

Water softener buying guide quick pick

  1. The hardness of your water
  2. Average household water consumption
  3. The size/capacity of a water softener
  4. Regeneration method
  5. Maintenance
  6. Type of salt to use
  7. Types of water softeners
  8. Water softeners cost
  9. Portable vs. standard water softener
  10. Contaminants the system removes
  11. Certification from independent bodies
  12. Tank design
  13. Warranty

What is a water softener?

A water softener is a device or gadget that is used in our home to remove minerals such as calcium and magnesium that make water hard. If you live in an area that has hard water, the only solution is to install water softeners.

Don’t confuse water filters and purifiers with water softeners.

Water filters and purifiers remove contaminants in the water but do not reduce the hardness of water which softeners do.

What is hard water?

Hard water is raw water that contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and ions that make water hard.

The minerals can be picked from the soil or ground rocks.

Hard water is not harmful to human beings and does not affect health matters, but it causes many problems in our lives, such as:

  • Hard water makes your skin become dry and causes irritation. It also causes hair loss after bathing with it.
  • It causes spots on the glassware and other utensils
  • If hard water runs through the pipe for a very long time limescale and matters build up in the pipe eventually causing the pipe to block and slow water flow.
  • Home appliances such as dishwashers, water heaters, washing machines, and kettles are affected by hard water. When limescale and matters build up in the appliances making them fail to operate, it reduces lifespan and becomes expensive to repair.
  • If clothes are washed using hard water, they become hard and scratchy and eventually look old and feel crispy.
  • Hard water affects sinks. The reaction between soap and hard water forms scum stains on the sink and shower.

All those effects of hard water are a good reason why we need water softeners in our houses.

What to look for when purchasing a water softener

  1. The hardness of your water

When buying a water softener you must know the hardness level of your water.

The hardness is measured in grains per gallon.

The best and most accurate method to test the water hardness is using a water hardness kit or getting results from the municipal water supply.

If you check and find your water has:

3 grains- your water is slightly hard

3-7 grains- your water is moderately hard

7-10 grains- your water is hard

10-15 grains- your water is very hard

Above 15 grains– your water is extremely hard

You need to buy a system that removes the above grains that make your water hard.

  1. Average household water consumption

The average amount of water a person consumes per day is between 70 and 110.

If you have five people in your house per day, you consume 80X5=400 gallons per day, and after a week you drink 400X7=2800 gallons per week.

How does the number of grains and households impact your water softener purchase? Both these numbers help you know the right size or capacity of the water softener you need.

  1. The size/capacity of a water softener

Water softeners are sold in sizes. The size doesn’t mean physical size but the ability to remove grains with frequent regeneration.

To know the right size you multiply the number of people in your household by the number of grains

For example, if the number of people in your house is 5, and your water grain or hardness level is 10, which size do you need?

A person consumes 85 gallons of water in a day so five is 85×5=425 gallons. You all use 425 gallons of water every day.

425 gallons x 10 grains=4250gallons per grain. You need a system that will remove 4250 grains in a day.

Per week = 425X7=2950×10=29500

Per month= 425X30=12,750

Most water softeners have a size range from 15,000 to 100,000 GPG.

If you consume a lot of water, you need a water softener that has a large capacity to reduce the cost of regeneration.

  1. Regeneration method

What is water softener regeneration?

During the process of water softening, there are softener resin beads that attract hard water minerals or hard water ions. The minerals stick to the beads.

After some time, the resin will be over-coated by hard water minerals, causing it to be ineffective. The resin bead needs to be flushed or cleaned.

The process of cleaning or flushing out hard water ions or minerals from the resin beads is called Regeneration.

There are three types of regeneration

Demand/metered regeneration: the water softener will regenerate based on water usage and is most commonly used. The system is set to calculate the amount of water used and regenerate on its own at the right time. The system that uses the metered regeneration method helps save salt and water.

Timer regeneration/Manual regeneration: In this type of regeneration, the person will decide when to regenerate. The method is expensive because it can waste a lot of water and salt.

  1. Maintenance

Like any other device, water softeners require regular maintenance.

A salt-based water softener such as a traditional style water softener, a cabinet style water softener, or a twin tank water softener needs a regular addition of salt and power for regeneration. So there will be an electricity bill to be paid for salt-based water softeners.

Also, salt-based water softener parts can wear out after some time, and they need to be replaced or repaired.

You must know the amount of salt, water, and electricity the system will use.

  1. Type of salt to use

Salt is used during regeneration. There are two types of salt available for water softeners: sodium chloride and potassium chloride.

You must be sure of the right type of salt to use and whether is available in the market.

  1. Types of water softeners

They are different types of water softeners. This includes salt-based water softeners, water conditioners, and salt-free water softeners.

Salt-based water softeners

This kind of water softener is meant to be used in extreme or very hard water.

A salt-based water softener includes a traditional-style water softener, a cabinet-style water softener, or a twin-tank water softener.

Water softeners replace hard water ions with soft water ions. The soft water ions used are sodium (salt) ions. You need a salty water tank or brine solution tank, which needs to be added more often for the process to work. The brine solution is required to remove hard minerals that are stuck in the polystyrene beads.

A salt-based water softener is not recommended due to some health issues; there are traces of salt that are left in the softened water. So they can cause a health risk to people who are having a problem with kidney or heart-related diseases.

However, you can still use the system by using soft ions such as potassium which is not harmful to our bodies, and it is nutrients required to keep our body healthy.

During regeneration, you can use hydrogen or hydrochloric acid, which is not a toxic cleaning agent if used in the right amount. Both hydrogen and potassium are eco-friendly but expensive compared to sodium.

You can also decide to leave individual taps with hard water for cooking and drinking.

A salt-based water softener requires regeneration regularly, so you are required to add softening materials, which are expensive.

Water conditioner

A water conditioner is a system that conditions hard minerals in water so as not to form scales on appliances or plumbing. Most people call them salt-free water softeners because they do not use salt.

Types of water conditioners

Magnetic water conditioner– The magnet is placed around water pipes which alters water structure. The process does not offer a permanent solution to your water hardness. The Hardness in water is paralyzed for about 48 hours, and after that, it returns to its hardness form.

Electronic water conditioner: Electronic pulses are sent to disrupt any suspended hard water mineral and change the chemical, which causes scaling and building up of matter.

Chelation: it uses citrus-based agents or media. It uses a special medium consisting of polymeric beads. When hard water passes through the medium, it alters the water hardness structure such that it does not form scale on the house appliance. The salt-free water conditioner alters the structure of hardness through a technology called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC). 

The Template Assisted Crystallization technology requires no wastewater, salt, electricity, control valve or electronic control system, brine tank, and backwash waste.

  1. Water softeners cost

The cost of water softeners depends on size and functionality. Before purchasing, you should consider the average water consumption in your home.

For instance, if you buy a small water softener than the required size you will be doing regeneration more often than usual, and you will pay more for electricity and salt consumed during regeneration.

Consider buying a bigger size or the required size. Even though the purchase price will be high, you will save more money on maintenance.

  1. Portable vs. standard water softener

There are water softeners that are portable, and the others are standard.

Portable water softeners are best suited for outdoors, camping, or traveling.

Standard water softeners are installed in the house on your existing water system.

Portable water softeners are used to soften a limited amount of water per day.

  1. Contaminants the system removes

Water softeners are known to remove hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium but there are more advanced systems that remove other contaminants such as iron.

If your water has the presence of iron you can consider buying such systems.

  1. Certification from independent bodies

There are independent bodies that guarantee you the system is effective in removing hardness and passed industry standards.

Such bodies include:

  1. Tank design

The water softener requires two tanks (a resin tank and a brine tank). There are brands that offer those two tanks separately and others that offer single-tank designs known as compacts.

Therefore, in the compact/single tank design, the resin and salt tanks are combined into one unit, therefore, helping save space.

  1. Warranty

A water softener is an expensive device and lasts for 20 years. You need a system that has a warranty in case something happens in between.

We hope that our article about the water softener buying guide was very helpful and that we have provided you with the right information to guide you when purchasing.

Which water softener buying guide did you follow when you were purchasing your system?

Please share it with us in the comment section.

Luxy is a content writer who enjoys writing about water filtration technologies. She knows that water is a crucial part of our lives and it is important to make sure that we are drinking clean and healthy water. She developed this site in an effort to educate readers on the fundamentals of water treatment at home, at work, and when traveling. Also, the importance of clean, healthy drinking water for people in his community. When she's not working, she likes to spend time with her family and listen to music.